Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

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Why I Left Islam

I was born in a moderate Shiite family in Punjab, eastern province of Pakistan . As it happens with almost every other Muslim male newborn, I underwent unscientific rituals based on religious traditions carried out on me, including Azaan in my ears on the very first day followed by circumcision and head shaving in the first week of my life. Both my grand mothers were very devout Shiites and Muslims, as we live in Pakistan in a closely knit family so the process of my brain washing started early by telling me about the greatness of Allah, the exalted morality of Prophet and all 12 Imams and the great sacrifice of Imam Hussain and his family to save Islam from falling into evil hands. A Shiite cleric was hired to teach me the recitation of the Quran and also Islamic and Shiite fundamentals who tried his best to instill in me the reverence to faith in Islam and Shiite sect in particular. At the age of ten I finished the recitation of the Quran twice and was done with the Cleric. I happened to watch "The Message" movie when I was about 8 and as Islam was depicted very positively in this Hollywood style scripted movie it left on me a positive impression of Islam.

Every year I used to go, with my mother and siblings, to attend Muharram rituals. The place where I went had a silver metallic imposter "Taziyah" of Imam Hussain's shrine. People used to gather there for commemorating the deaths of the Imam and their family and for meeting up those relatives they only meet once a year. There were too many odd rituals happening there. Significant of those rituals included a horse 'Zuljanah' dressed as Imam's horse coming in a courtyard housing the "Taziyah" and people holding their young ones moved these infants under the belly of the "sacred" horse, while other grown ups tried their best to be the first to touch the horse, so as not to miss out on the blessings coming from heaven in form of the horse. ashura9.jpgThe other event which I never liked to watch was a display of masochism and in some cases sadism. This event called "Zanjir Zani" where people used to hit their backs with a set of long blades to go out of the way to prove that they stand nearer and higher in terms of religious piety and feel the tragedy more by hurting themselves. In the same event some of the sadistic people coerced and coaxed their young children who are not mature enough to decide for themselves (at the age of five) to start practicing this insane ritual. After seeing this appalling ritual I started questioning the validity of such sickening practices. That was the first time I questioned anything about my religion.

Time went on and the brain washing process continued in the school. This was done in many ways. I'll mention a few of those here. Islamic studies were made a mandatory subject by the corrupt and dictatorial Zia regime. Young children minds including myself were therefore infected by presenting them with a heavily biased picture of utopian Islam and its perfect and exemplary Prophet and his followers. Also some of the more conservative teachers tried their best to instill hatred against the Jews and all infidels while glorifying the acts of Muslim warriors. Some of them gave incentives to students if they had offered morning prayers. In the month of fasting, people who weren't fasting were embarrassed by their fellow students and teachers and the ones who fasted were highly praised. It was told by some of the teachers that Imam Ali's best fasting days were the hottest and longest. Also some of the fabricated hadith were also used to show how progressive Islam was e.g. "Seek knowledge even if you have to go to China " etc. So this kind of environment was prevalent in our school.

The major balancing force in this entire one sided world of Islam was my father. He had an opportunity to go to US to get his MS degree and during his time he was able to understand the western values and why some of those values should be used to bring up his children. He himself was not a very devout Muslim but still went to the two Eid prayers and participated fully in the last 3 days of Ashura (8-10th of Muharram). So I was never forced to say prayers or asked to go to mosque nor do any religious activity. I fasted and prayed on my own will, thanks to the brain washing done for a quarter century. During this time I felt the plight of women in the country, how they are superficially respected but actually have no real rights on their own i.e. they can't take divorce by themselves as men do. They can't prove rape. They can't do anything if a man marries another woman. They get less in inheritance and they are considered imbecile by the Islamic law to have half the witness of a man no matter how much more educated they are compared to the male witness. I always thought if I were born a girl i.e. had an X chromosome in my DNA rather than Y it would have sealed my fate for ever and that didn't seem to me to be any justice. I also thought about the paradox of free will and determination and both of them lead to the conclusion that God cannot be omniscient and if God is omniscient and can predict our every future move then we are just dummies as we'll be doing what God already knows and that means he had decided to put people in heaven and hell right from their birth.

With these questions still unanswered in my mind I left Pakistan and came to US to do my MS. Luckily I got the privilege to be at a premier institution, so I was able to make some friends from my country with whom I can have open intellectual discussions about these issues. Also I got more awareness about the Taliban and their cruel regime and the problems Afghan women are facing there. I thought at that point of time that Taliban are not following true Islam and they have invented their own version of Islam to take control of the war battered region. So when Taliban smashed Bamiyan Buddha statue I was shocked at the barbarism of these Taliban and it encouraged me to do more research on Islam. Then 9/11 came and I was so distressed at the insanity of these so called martyrs. These incidents filled me with grief and shame as I thought that people who have the same religion as mine are doing all these horrendous acts in the name of religion.

The first major blow that shattered my faith was when I got to know about the slavery of women, men and children and how women slaves were treated and what happened to the women of neighboring non Muslim countries. So after doing more research I got definite proof from the Islamic sources that slavery was prevalent and practiced by early Muslims. I tried to read the explanations given by the apologists but none of them satisfied me. I always held human and especially women rights in high esteem and slavery of women seem to me as an extreme violation of those rights and I thought that no divine religion can do that. So to satisfy myself I came to the conclusion that these haditha written after more than 2 centuries must be corrupted so I thought I should only consider Islam based on the Quran rather than these hadiths.

Two years back I read Bertrand Russell's essays on religion and those opened my eyes. Being disgusted by the human rights in Islam I instantly moved away from Islam and stopped praying and fasting and due to my lack of Quranic knowledge I postponed the religious matters to be considered later when I have some time available for myself to seek the truth about it.

The final tipping point came about six months ago when I watched the movie Alexander. I just thought to look up the real history of Alexander and then some how came to know about the information in Wikipedia and an article in FFI site. I was deeply shocked and angered to know that Quranic verse on Alexander is borrowed from Alexander's Romance and also that Quran considered Earth flat due to misconception of Greeks during that time. Once I saw FFI website I kept on reading the articles and found them highly logical and authentic, while the arguments presented by the apologists were full of fallacies that carry no weight. I felt a lot of anger for being made a fool by the society around me for so many years. I still feel lucky that I got out of this "black hole" as most of the people are incapable of doing that.

I was feeling a strong urge to write my testimonial for quite some time so I finally sat down today to accomplish this task to let others know if they are still following Islam, how much darkness they are in. I personally want to thank Mr. Ali Sina and all the authors who have written articles for FFI as they are spending their precious time for a very noble cause of enlightening people and showing them the correct path. Now I'm of the opinion that everything that was shown as a good aspect of Islam to me can be countered by egregiously bad deeds done by the Prophet and his partners, which tells me how much hypocrisy is present in the Islamic teachings.

Used with permission from Faith Freedom